Engaged citizens aren't just the ones who run for office. Sometimes they're the ones out hunting invasive weeds. That's the case for Dana Boyle, Stephanie Wong, and John Woodworth who share the common bond of caring about the Tamarack Nature Preserve.
Hear their story of engaging the public sector and other citizens to protect and promote this hidden gem in Woodbury, MN.
A lot of people are working full time. We don't see each other that much as neighbors. This is an opportunity for people to just get to know each other as neighbors. It draws people together around something that's a common good.
— Dana Boyle
- Christy Kallevig, Extension educator
University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality
- Tamarack Nature Preserve volunteer members: Dana Boyle, Stephanie Wong and John Woodworth
- Use the Community Vitality page as your go-to resource for help in your community work.
- Learn more about the Tamarack Nature Preserve and events that are occurring there by visiting their website.
- Get more details on the Minnesota Master Naturalist program about providing stewardship to Minnesota’s natural resources.
Read this episode's conversation below.
Note: Our Vital Connections On Air episodes are audio-based interviews. Written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.
Christy Kallevig: Welcome to Vital Connections On Air, a podcast brought to you by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality that explores the trends and topics important to communities and leaders throughout Minnesota. My name is Christy Kallevig and I'm an Extension educator with the Center for Community Vitality. And today I am joined by Stephanie Wong, John Woodworth and Dana Boyle who are either master naturalist volunteers; Stephanie is a water steward; but they all work very closely with the Tamarack Preserve in Woodbury. Thank you all for joining me today.
All: Thanks for having us.
Christy Kallevig: I'd like to start by getting to know each of you a little bit more, so if you could each introduce yourselves and share with us how you became involved with the Tamarack Preserve.
Stephanie Wong: I'm Stephanie Wong. I'm a master water steward and the nature preserve happens to be in my backyard. The reason I've been active in the nature preserve happened only recently. I happened to be in a meeting with some water educators from the city and from the watershed district and one of the things that we were talking about is community outreach. How do we reach out to people who don't naturally come to the water events [and haven't] actually talked to you about environmental issues. This is one thing that got me thinking about how do we — how do I — reach out to people? How do I work with people in the community? And lead to a linkage to Dana Boyle and then to John.
Dana Boyle: Great. So, I'm Dana Boyle and I'm a master naturalist. I also live right next to the nature preserve and take the woodland and boardwalk trails pretty much every day with my dog. I really am getting to know this one particular wild spot and it's really exciting to be able to see it change from really day to day, all throughout the year. One project that I got very interested in was, through the I-Naturalists app, which was developed by the California Academy of Sciences, and it allows individuals, whether they're scientists or citizen scientists or just amateurs to record observations. So for me it's using my smartphone, just taking pictures of things, putting them into the app, getting some help identifying what they are or what they might be and sharing that with the global community, who then confirms the observations and identifications and it allows you to really create a field guide and almost a phonology. In this case it's for the Tamarack Nature Preserve. And through that app, I saw that someone who kept kind of commenting on my observations and confirming them or helping me identify [them] was someone with a username that didn't mean anything to me, but I saw that that person was based in Woodbury, Minnesota. So I reached out through the app and it turned out to be John Woodworth. So over to you John.
John Woodworth: Hi. And this is John, John Woodworth. I'm a recent retiree. I have been a longtime gardener, for like forever. I'm in the master naturalist program. I hope to attain that this October and finish my efforts there. I'm just kind of an all-around plant nerd and volunteer for all kinds of things here in Woodbury.
Christy Kallevig: And I also want to point out that you guys have another gentleman who was working with you now on your efforts, Kevin Powers, who was unable to join us today, but we want to make sure that we recognize him and his contributions as well. So there were a lot of different things that brought you together around the Tamarack Preserve. Can you tell us a little bit about how this space that has kind of become a way to gather people together?
John Woodworth: Absolutely, I’d be happy to. The Tamarack Nature Preserve is the full name of it, and it's basically a protected 169 acres of swamp or fen, or whatever technical term you have, that has never been developed. And it has Tamarack trees growing in it. It's a wetland, its woodland, there’s upland forest. There's other kinds of evergreens that are planted there, and it's just pristine for the most part. And so given the level of development around it, it pretty much is just the way it looked 100 years ago. There's access points for residents to come through and visit and it's considered a precious commodity, a precious resource by the city and our other co-sponsor, which is the Ramsey Washington County Watershed District as well. And there are many, many different kinds of species there that you don't find easily in the metro area. And I think if I remember right, heard this is the southernmost stand in Minnesota of naturally occurring Tamarack trees.
Christy Kallevig: And where exactly is this located? Can you kind of give folks a general idea of where they might be able to find the preserve?
Dana Boyle: Yeah, it's actually right in the heart of Woodbury. Literally across from the City Hall. In fact, the area behind the City Hall used to be part of the swamp, at the corner of Radio Drive and Bielenberg, right off of where 494 comes across Tamarack Drive.
Stephanie Wong: Valley Creek Road.
Dana Boyle: Oh yeah, sorry. Valley Creek and Radio and Bielenberg. It's right in there.
Christy Kallevig: Okay, great. And so you all have a love of nature and caring for the environment. What was the impetus for really bringing you together as a group and starting work around the nature preserve?
Dana Boyle: Actually as part of my master naturalist training, you have to do a capstone project and so there was a group of individuals who were willing to work with me and see what we could do to lay the groundwork for what we were calling a virtual nature center and that was just a small project for the course, but the idea had legs. So when Stephanie and I kinda started thinking about how we could be ourselves better stewards of the site and then inspire others to become, you know, involved in the environmental stewardship of that area. We thought, "Hey, this idea of a virtual nature center kind of makes sense." And so we teed it up with the city of Woodbury. That's about the time when John got involved and our idea was maybe using current technology and assuming that most people have smartphones with them, people of all ages and backgrounds. That maybe we could use apps and build and create what a more sophisticated nature center would have, where they've got a building and staff and so forth. And make it very light on the land, but also light on the pocketbook for the city. And they liked the idea and we're asking for their help to sort of meet us halfway
by investing more in good signage and better trail maintenance which has come up in their plans anyway. So that's kind of our partnership that we're pursuing right now.
Stephanie Wong: One of the things that I'm starting off in this preserve and being stewards of it was how do you take care of it and similar to like taking care of your backyard, but just on a little larger scale for me. So we did small things, introducing people to re-initiating some tours that could allow people who wouldn't necessarily venture into the preserve on their own to come with a guide or someone maybe takes them through, make it a little more approachable. And I think, but that's what we've been doing on a couple of the service projects, is making the preserve more approachable, doing it on a smaller scale, for instance, taking a group of scouts to help to clear out burdock, trying some experiments on our own on how to get rid of the burdock effectively, so perhaps we can get others to help us out. Seeing how we engage with the community, I think one of the things [we discovered] in our recent years — people do want to get involved with their community, [with] things that are meaningful to them. In this case, for me personally, it's in my own backyard and many of the volunteers that we've pulled come directly from the adjacent neighborhoods, but they only have limited amounts of time, so planning projects that just take kind of a few hours at most are very helpful where we have a kind of measurable results. So we pulled out over 200 pounds of trash, and we stacked it up in front of our group after a couple of hours of pulling trash out and had a photo. And I think for the young people and for the older ones, I think that was hopefully meaningful.
John Woodworth: One thing I should point out is that we adopted, so to speak, the three of us, the Tamarack Nature Preserve and we actually had to sign a form. It's a contract and to me, that's a personal contract for advocacy for the preserve and advocacy for all the things that both Stephanie and Dana had mentioned. But also I think advocacy, working with our sponsors to be a source of energy for them and getting them to make the Tamarack Nature Preserve a priority for development and for protection and for management. So we're kind of like catalysts for stewardship, catalysts for engagement, catalysts for online resources, but also a catalyst, I think overarching, for stewardship from all parties concerned.
Christy Kallevig: And correct me if I'm wrong, but you were also interested in bringing your communities together a bit more. Correct? And how did that desire to bring communities play into the creation of some of the projects or furthering your work with the nature preserve?
Dana Boyle: I would say that you know, we, a lot of people are working full time. We don't see each other that much as neighbors. If you compare it to decades ago. And this is an opportunity for people to just get to know each other as neighbors and whatever their interests, backgrounds, affiliations are, it draws people together around something that's a common good. And, you know, we all know we need to have good relationships with people who live near us. And so I think in general it's kind of got that flavor. Stephanie, what would you say?
Stephanie Wong: Yeah, and even beyond that, I think as a community we're trying to create kind of — the analogy is probably not the best here — but I would say, we're trying to teach people a language to talk about. Like for instance, the preserve. Even in small ways and stewardship, talking and pointing out pieces of landscape, plants, and animals that are in there naturally. But as we do that, as we talk about the language and enable them to participate in this, maybe they can talk about that among themselves or with their families and look for what commonalities we have. So for instance, the water is really important to me as a master water steward, and the fact that we have neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are somewhat drawn rather randomly based on streets and locations. However, from a watershed district, all of us are connected, all of us impact the same areas because of how the water flows, how the topography and the land exists. It doesn't matter that you happen to live on the east side of Woodbury or on the west side of Woodbury. We all affect the same areas and the consequences of what we do, the benefits of what we do in terms of protecting our natural features are shared by all of us.
John Woodworth: I’ll just jump in too. I'm kind of a systematic thinker, so one of the things that's in my background when I was working at 3M was around the development of products and services that we would sell to people. So you do market analysis and so when we're saying the community, my first question is which community? And to me saying Woodbury is too broad. So we went through the activity of stakeholder analysis and finding out who those communities are, and try to get into their heads and find out what their wants and needs are, what their limitations might be, and how they would want the Tamarack Nature Preserve brought to that. So it's getting into the mind of the people that you want there and focusing on that. So that was, I think, pretty insightful for us. I think it's going to be very important for the design of the virtual activity which we've actually made some good progress on. Dana has done quite a lot of work on that, but also for access services to the preserve itself. Even in terms of publicity. So if we can't just say Woodbury's the community, we would need to say where we're talking to families with children, we're talking about seniors or elderly, the infirm. We're talking about people who are short-term residents who might come from another country for example. Each one of them has a different need or want with this kind of resource and what's the best way to package it up and deliver to them?
Dana Boyle: Right, like birders are another group, you know, so specialists in a particular area of nature. Well, and one thing too that we've done is we've looked at what would be, kind of to build on that, what would be an interesting way to tap into different sub-communities and with the local residents. One of the things we realized is: this is an opportunity for them to see how the surroundings actually increase the property value of their homes and properties. That's a touch point for some people. They might not be that interested in conservation or they might not think that they are, but we're trying to bridge that value proposition to them. So one of the ways that we've tapped into local residents is through some of the homeowners' associations and we've been invited to write articles for their newsletters. We've also been invited to speak at the association meetings and participate in the night out sorts of things. And little by little we can see progress. We have people who connect with us and realize that, "Oh yeah, you guys know more about this place. Can you, can you tell us more, you know?"
John Woodworth: But we were pretty planful about how we go about doing this. And I think we owe it to our sponsors to be professional about what we're doing. So it's not a point of little projects that we’re off on our own, we are connecting back with them all the time saying, “This is what we're doing for you. What do you got? What do you think of that?” We try very much to align with the objectives of our two sponsors. So everything that we do is underneath that.
Christy Kallevig: And let's talk about those sponsors because I want to clarify that when you say sponsors, I believe that you're referring to the City of Woodbury and also the Ramsey-Washington Water District. Is that correct?
John Woodworth: Yes.
Stephanie Wong: Yeah. So it's the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District, [which] is the watershed district in which the Tamarack Nature Preserve actually lies. Its purview extends over several cities, but the city of Woodbury definitely has the preserve in its boundaries.
Christy Kallevig: Right.
Stephanie Wong: Most of them have had the preserve in their boundaries.
Christy Kallevig: So in the language that you're using, you know, rather than referring to them just as a public entity that you have to work with, you're talking about them as sponsors. Tell me kind of how you've decided to use that language, but also what does that say about your relationship with them and how you've worked with them?
Stephanie Wong: So both of those groups are actually advocates of the preserve, if you look on their websites prior to the point that we got together as a group, they were already championing the area as a quote-unquote, a gem, a natural gem in their borders. And the difficulty for them is the lack of staff. Everyone has at some point time constraints. And so there's only so much that could be done on a regular basis. So infrastructure improvements had been put in place by both of those groups jointly to help maintain the water quality into the preserve. Publications had been made. Studies had been conducted. And yet there was, this is something that they couldn't go on a regular basis. So a group like ours can go on an ad hoc basis.
Stephanie Wong: You know, I'd mentioned before that we've done some small level or small-scale invasive removal. So the city, because as John mentioned, we've adopted the park — the city had provided us with funding to purchase some tools to help with burdock removal. We've done that to help improve the trail accessibility for others. For sponsorship, third, we check in with them. We say, “Well, here's what we've done, is this aligned? So we always want to make sure that our activities are aligned with their missions, with their goals. We know that because they are our sponsors, because we have this open discussion that we know that the city is looking at improvements, infrastructure improvements, with replacing the boardwalk in the near future. And so these are things that we're pairing up with them, kind of getting ready for. We want to support trail accessibility beyond the boardwalk when they go in and we want to make sure that as they improve the signage in the area, that it's actually meaningful for people who would use the signs. Right now it's really hard to navigate the preserve if you don't know it, just because the signage is not clear. But people who are the feet on the street like us, would be able to provide that input to the city, and to the watershed district.
Dana Boyle: And it seems like the city really appreciates the role that we're playing. Again, we're really deferring to them in the big picture, but we are the feet on the street and the eyes on the path. So if a tree goes down, we call, and it gets taken care of right away. I think they kind of count on us to let them know if there are any issues that are important, because they can't be everywhere all the time. And their crews have a lot of places to try to keep track of.
John Woodworth: I think the opportunity for us, if I may just jump in on this, is that we can provide the place where both sponsors can come to the table. We've done that a few times now, where we arranged actually to have a walk through, whether it [be] ecologists through the preserve, funded by and participation by both — supported by both organizations. And then the findings, we're going to follow up with both organizations on activities next. So in a way we’re not just feet on the street, we are actually instigators and coordinators between our two sponsors as well. Like I said, they're very busy people, but we'd like them aligned as much as possible. So in a way, we're leading.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, we're enabling that relationship to continue.
Christy Kallevig: And it sounds like it's a very open and positive relationship, which is great to hear when working with two public entities. Go back to that very first meeting, or when you first decided that you wanted to do something. How did you identify the right players to reach out to, to start this work?
Stephanie Wong: So I think that relationship helps because we had prior working relationships with them. So as a master water steward, one of the benefits and as [I was] previously working on the watersheds citizen advisory commission, I already knew quite a few of the folks at the watershed district. I knew that there was an interest. Actually I knew of Dana Boyle through the watershed district because they had shared her name with me about her concerns about the trail…
Dana Boyle: You also knew a lot of people at the city and that really helped.
Stephanie Wong: And we had a kind of a history of delivering things in the past. So other outreach programs that you had worked on before without much involvement for either the watershed district or the city, but with benefits for both. I think that helps to say, you know, these guys can deliver. And the level of trust started with small projects. Numerous small projects just kind of going forward.
Dana Boyle: And we are seasoned professionals, so I think that counts a little bit to understanding and appreciating that we can't just go to the city of Woodbury, for example, and make demands. We understand there are constraints of not just staff but time and finances. And so, you know, as Stephanie was always advocating for how we can really understand what their goals are that they need to accomplish and how can we maybe lift off some of that and not necessarily do it for them but offer some assistance that really is in line with their current goals.
Stephanie Wong: No, I think that's the important part is always going and asking, "Well, what are the things that you need to accomplish, what's important to you?" And the funny part is the folks, the staff members at both organizations are incredible assets. It's just that they can't get everything done and I think they appreciate what we are able to provide and in turn, we appreciate their support.
Christy Kallevig: I know that you already had standing relationships in some cases, but was there anything that you needed to do specifically in order to, for lack of a better word, get an audience in order to talk about the work that you wanted to do or to make the reports that you take back to them?
Stephanie Wong: Like I mentioned earlier, we're pretty lucky here with the two organizations. We know people are pretty passionate about what they do. So on our first update meeting for the City of Woodbury, Dana and I had actually come up with a list of items that we had already accomplished without the city's official endorsement. And our question, really the one that we laid on the table was, this is what we've done on our own, should we continue? Are you willing to support us? Is this something of interest to the city? Knowing hopefully that it was kind of a rhetorical question, but to really formalize the fact that we were in this space and this relationship then continued. We asked that, okay, if this is something of value to you, would it be worth your time for us to come back on a regular update? So in a way that's how we formalized our updates.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, it was pretty strategic and from a tactical standpoint, we don't connect with them all that often. We don't want to be in their face so much that they get tired of seeing us.
Stephanie Wong: Yeah, but they do know, to large extent, at our last meeting, in the early spring/late winter, we did say, "Well these are the things that we would like," so we have a wish list. And a part of that is if, in great hopes, keeping our fingers crossed that they can provide, they can fulfill our wish list, that would be great. And if not because of time or resources that maybe it's a seed that we've planted that when the time or the money is available, then yes, they would be able to say, “Oh, I have something that I know needs to be done.” So that's kind of chewing up both, aligning our plans with hopefully their goals as well.
Christy Kallevig: Let's talk about the stakeholder analysis that you did. Was there a formal process that you used or how did you go about incorporating that into your work?
John Woodworth: So I used my marketing toolkit, a product development toolkit from when I worked at 3M and brought a lot of those tools out, dusted them off.
Christy Kallevig: And so for somebody that maybe doesn't have that marketing experience like you do, what do those tools look like or what are some things that they can do to maybe do their own stakeholder analysis so that they can go into a meeting as well prepared as you guys have?
John Woodworth: I would encourage them to explore product development techniques. Okay. There's a whole lot of things that are published about that, but the idea is the method. Don't just assume that you know your customers or you know the marketplace or you know your competitors really well. And guess what? We are competing for resources; that's how I think. The resources, whatever resource we're competing with, well, time and attention from our sponsors, we're competing for capital resources. Whether it's projects within the city that are all worthy projects, but we want to preserve to be at the top of the list. So all of those, that kind of thinking comes from within the world of product development. Which is basically you have a product, you want market share, you want people to endorse your product by coming and using it and you want them to tell other people about the product and have them publicly endorse it for you. So, I would explore any kind of information about how to do that. The tools themselves are pretty straightforward.
Stephanie Wong: I think we also knew kind of what was important to us to attract the markets or the customers to our area. How would we retain? I think what's important to me is if this project is to be sustainable, that means that if I, or any one of us, you know, hopefully, it will last more than two years, more than five years, and perhaps at that point in time we'll have new people coming in and rejuvenating the process. But how do you find like-minded people? Well, one of the easiest ones to find the lowest hanging fruit would be people who are interested in nature and kind of those big blocks for us. Who are, you know, birders. There are people who are naturally coming to the preserve anyways. There are people who are in adjacent neighborhoods. That's the easiest group to get after because they only have to walk into the preserve from their backyards or onto the trails. So those are the factors that we were looking at in terms of the vicinity, in terms of the size of the group that we could potentially attract. Wild ones, those are naturalists in informal groupings already that already sorted themselves out.
John Woodworth: But one of the things that can endanger a really great product or a really great idea, is assuming that everyone will like it and it's going to be easy to do. So yes, there is an attractive market, but it's going to be too difficult for us to ensnare them, to build for them, or the best you can get as indifference from them, so maybe you just write them off, and I think from a public utility or a public resource like a preserve or a park that's not abnormal thinking. So we don't really care about these people. It’s not that we don't care about them, but we're not going to give them the extra effort that we would be for the key stakeholder groups that we really want to go after.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, and I just ordered it …
John Woodworth: Prioritization is where I would go. I'm sorry Dana.
Dana Boyle: No, no problem. I just want to clarify something. If you're listening to this and you know, paying attention to what we're saying. We're talking about basically two different audiences that we need to please or speak to whatever you want to call it, focus on. One audience would be our partners or sponsors and we talked a lot about, you know, how we would engage with the city of Woodbury and the Watershed District. So that's important. The other audience would be for us, the potential visitors to the preserves. So we spent a lot of time, as John and Stephanie have said, kind of carving it up and understanding who are those [people]. Let's just talk about who are those groups and how much of a priority should we give to each group. And the other thing is too, we know that part of our job is going to be deliberately seeking out people who might not normally be in the information flow.
Dana Boyle: So if we're saying we want more seniors to come, we want people with physical disabilities, if it's reasonable here. We're going to make a special effort to identify those people and encourage them to come. Same thing with families volunteering, you know, we have to be really careful about finding them and not just letting them passively find us or not, you know, and same with multicultural groups who might need just an extra hand holding effort to come over for the first time. Now after that, we're probably not going to do the hand holding, but it's getting them there in the first place and helping them have a good first experience.
John Woodworth: So to answer your question, it's basically a rational approach to identifying the best people, the features that they need, and then prioritizing what we would do. That we have the energy and that our sponsors would be willing to support, and then going for it, and then putting a plan in place and sustaining it and then sharing that with our sponsors.
Christy Kallevig: How vital has the stakeholder analysis been and the work that you have done with your sponsors and really helping you to move things forward?
John Woodworth: Well, for one thing, if you've shown you've done it and then you share your results with your sponsors, I think it gives them a higher level of confidence set that you know what you're doing. You're not just doing a boldface ask, you're saying this is what we're looking for and this is why and these are the people that we need to reach out to. Never has that been challenged or scoffed at, I think that they actually accept that because we are, that's where we get what we call voice. That the voices of those people in those communities are really important. So how we've used that, I'll just give you an example. There's an effort within the city called Woodbury Thrives, which is really around getting people outside and being active and contributing, but also for personal health and everything.
John Woodworth: We went to one of those because there was an event that was pretty much targeted at active seniors and infirm seniors, more elderly seniors. And we went there as we identified them as a strong stakeholder. They need to be involved with this, there’s a lot the preserve can offer to them, but we went there to listen. So we went and talked. But we also went and listened, we asked them a lot of questions. So we got some really good information back from them about what they would look for and a good experience and a bad experience at a city park, at a city resource like this. And so, we enfolded that into our designs and we're folding that into our needs for future requests for the city. And we can go into the city and say, here's how we came to that conclusion. We talked to 25 different seniors and here's things that they said to us. That’s boom, that's the voice, that's a signal, as opposed to saying “We just dreamed this up because we think it's a good idea. “
Stephanie Wong: And I think that's important too, as we continued to collect voices or people's input on all of the community events that we put on...these several community events that we pulled together, you know, for folks that attended the cleanup event. That's how we linked in with Kevin Powers who is the fourth member of the group. You know, its word of mouth. And I know this is somewhat slow, but we're only a small group, so slow is good in terms of expansion and in term of determining what we can do.
Christy Kallevig: So would you say that being realistic, both with your goals and the expectations of sponsors or community members has been pretty key to helping your work progress?
Stephanie Wong: Yeah, low expectations are always good because then you'll always be pleasantly surprised.
John Woodworth: I come from the corporate world where the bottom line is always lurking in the background in the quarterly results and I sometimes get a little impatient that municipalities move at a different calendar and perhaps at a different pace. So I defer to my two partners over here about how we need to move on some of these things, but I think it's kind of tied to empathy, who our sponsors are, and what their issues are and how we can ask in a polite but effective way for the things that we need.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, and we hold ourselves to pretty much regularly scheduled weekly meetings just to keep chipping away and planning and taking advantage of anything new. We always do a check in at the beginning, at the same time, you know, being that we're retired, we also travel and want to make room for that in our lives. And so this has kept us at a pretty comfortable pace that seems to be making headway at about the speed that's good for us, but also that's good for our partner organizations, because if we just came to them and demand or needed something right away, that wouldn't work either.
John Woodworth: Yeah, there's a seasonal nature to working with a resource like a preserve. Right. And working with a parks department. They're very, very busy in the active time of year in the parks. And so that's the time when we would have events. We would have service projects, it would be in the summertime. So we have to adapt our calendar and our rhythm to acknowledge that and work around. So yes. And we do enjoy life, we are in our golden years.
Christy Kallevig: As people are listening to the podcast, they might be thinking, you know, these three folks have done a great job and they’ve really helped the nature preserve. I have an idea of something that I want to do in my own community, but I can't imagine going to the city officials or county officials. What is something that you would say to that person that has an idea, but is maybe intimidated by the process or just doesn't know where to start? What would you say to help them?
Dana Boyle: Okay, so one of the things we didn't really discuss were the subtleties of the relationships that we have to develop within our partner or sponsor organizations. So for example, at the City of Woodbury, we have key contacts within the Parks Department, but then there's also a very important contact of ours who is in the Trails Maintenance Department, I think which falls under public works. And beyond that, we have several key contacts who are marketing specialists within the city. And so, I guess, all that by way of saying that different people reside in different departments and it's taken us some time to figure out exactly who to contact for various things that we need to communicate. And we probably have five or six key contacts within the City of Woodbury. We have at least two or three over at the watershed district and then a couple within the county, Washington County. So for us it's taken time to really understand who does what. That way we're not bombarding people and we're really helping them be more effective and efficient when it comes to supporting the kinds of things that we're hoping for with the Tamarack Nature Preserve.
John Woodworth: I would say get to know them first. So instead of jumping in front of them, waving your arms and say, “I've got a big proposal.” I would take a page from Stephanie and Dana's books and say, get involved beforehand in other projects and know who the people are and build that level of trust up. And then it just will come naturally. Don't just come knocking on the door with a sheet of paper and petitions or “we need this,” build the relationships first. I think it's a good place to start.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, and I think too, that idea of if you can find a few like-minded, like-hearted people, I personally think that really helps things go better because different people have different approaches, but they also have different networks and a lot of it is about who you know and establishing, not just an understanding of what the cities in this case’s goals are, but building up the credibility that they would have in you. And so the more of a network you have, I think that is better. And sometimes that's accomplished through a couple of people. You don't need necessarily need a huge volunteer squad. I think our size works really well and, as you know Kevin's not with us today, but he's contributing now to the project too. So that's a pretty good size.
Stephanie Wong: Yeah, I think when you have to, you have to find something that's important to you. So for each of us I think we find our opportunities in different areas, so whether or not it's adopting a park or volunteering with the city on advisory commissions, the city, the school districts, the schools, the watershed districts, all of these organizations need input. We just decided to take it to a little bit more active contribution. I don't particularly like sitting in meetings and just leaving it in the conference room. And I think many people are like us that sitting in the meeting is not enough. It's just a matter of identifying a need and perhaps asking for permission or for forgiveness afterward.
Dana Boyle: Yeah, and you know what too? I do want to circle back a little bit, the process that we took to identify our audiences. In the corporate world, it's called the voice of the customer or the user experience. You know, you do the same with your partners or your potential partners or sponsors. Basically, it's understood what motivates them and will help them say yes to your idea or accept your messaging. And I love this quote about, “Before you can walk in someone else's shoes, you have to take your own shoes off first.” It's a very simple statement, but really when you think about it's like, I know I have this thing that I really want to accomplish, but try to put that to the side and understand who the funding or granting organizations, for example, what is really their motivation?
Christy Kallevig: I think that's a great place for us to end our conversation today. Thank you all so much, Stephanie, John and Dana for joining us for this podcast and for your great work in the Tamarack Nature Preserve. I look forward to visiting with you and the preserve again in the future.
John Woodworth: Thank you.
Stephanie Wong: Thanks.
Dana Boyle: Thanks for having us.
Christy Kallevig: Thank you to Stephanie, John, and Dana for sharing their story with us. If you would like to learn more about the Tamarack Nature Preserve, visit their website at www.tamaracknaturepreserve.org. You can learn more about University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality by visiting our website at www.extension.umn.edu/community-development. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on new research and resources for communities and those who lead them. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Vital Connections On Air.
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